Monday, January 28, 2008

Ode to the Gypsy

Clara, "What'd she do back in Lonesome Dove?"
Gus, "She did what she could."

Greek Chicken Pie, Andalusian asparagus, and crostini with tapenade

One of my favorite guitar player is Biréli Lagrène.

He is a gypsy guitarist in the style of Django, who is pictured on the left. If you don't know who Django is, you should find out.

What's this got to do with food? Well, it's inspiration. A certain style of music evokes a certain style of cuisine and even though I have taken some regional liberties I did what I could.

The first dish is very simple to throw together and is very good if you are having company over. The classic Kalamata olive tapenade is a staple across the Mediterranean though it varies slightly from region to region. This is the French version.

Kalamata olives - 8 oz
1 clove garlic
1 anchovy fillet
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon dijon
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tblspn olive oil

Throw all of this into a food processor and whack it until it forms a paste. You're finished.

The store was out of baguette so instead I bought naan bread. Cut the naan bread up into bite sized pieces and bake at 400 for about 2 minutes. Transfer the tapanade into a bowl and arrange the baked naan bread around the bowl so people can spread it as they like. A little goes a long way.

Esparrago de andalucia
Andalusian asparagus

I like asparagus a lot and finding different ways to prepare it is a challenge, so when I ran across this recipe I had to give it a try.

1 lb asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
12 almonds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 thick slice day old bread

Trim the asparagus. Heat the oil and sautee the bread, garlic, and almonds for 2-3 minutes. I used naan bread instead of regular bread only because it was all that i had.

Transfer all the ingredients into a food processor or whopper chopper, whatever is available. Add the paprika, cumin, vinegar, salt, and pepper and 1 tblspn of water. Process until a coarse meal is formed.

Sautee the asparagus in the same pan adding a little more oil if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the bread mixture in with about 6 oz of water. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes. It doesn't look very good but it has an interesting flavor.

Greek Chicken Pie

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
2 oz butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
8 sheets filo pastry
7 oz Feta cheese
1 tblspn chopped dill
1/2 tspn grated nutmeg
1 egg lightly beaten
1 onion diced

heat the oven to 350

Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces and poach in the chicken stock for 5-8 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve the stock. I strained mine through a strainer.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and sautee the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the flour to make a roux.

Add in the chicken stock and then the milk. Keep stirring it until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat.

Pulse the poached chicken a few times in the whopper chopper.

Stir the chicken, feta, dill and nutmeg into the stock and milk. Lastly stir in the egg.

Here are some tips if you haven't used filo dough before. It will be frozen when you buy it. Let it thaw out before you are ready to use it. After it is thawed and you are about ready to use it, cut open the packaging and unroll it. After it is unrolled and exposed to air always place a towel over it unless you are working with it. It will dry out in a heartbeat.

You need a shallow casserole dish for this. Place one sheet of the filo dough on the bottom of the dish. Brush that sheet with melted butter. Continue this for 4 sheets.

Pour the chicken mixture over the filo dough. Level it all out and layer the filo dough over the top in the same manner as before.

Bake for 45 minutes. In the interim drink wine and listen to gypsy music.

This probably has no semblance to anything that Django and Grapelli ever ate but I like to imagine that they did and it isn't hard to imagine when you are listening to swinging gypsy guitar. The point is that these dishes are far removed from anything I would normally cook. Sometimes it takes a little inspiration to get motivated in the kitchen and changing up the music is as good an inspiration as any, or rather its all I need.

Winter and the kitchen are conducive to each other, at least they are for me.

Bon apetit!

Ridge Santa Cruz '04 $37

Bireli Lagrene
Rosenberg Trio
John Jorgenson Quintet